DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

HERCULES (director: Brett Ratner; screenwriters: Ryan Condal/Evan Spiliotopoulos/based on Radical Comics' Hercules by Steve Moore; cinematographer: Dante Spinotti; editors:  Mark Helfrich/Julia Wong; music:  Fernando Velazquez; cast: Dwayne Johnson (Hercules), Irina Shayk (Megara), John Hurt (Lord Cotys), Reece Ritchie (Iolaus), Ian McShane (Amphiaraus), Rufus Sewell (Autolycus), Joseph Fiennes (King Eurystheus), Tobias Santelmann (Rhesus), Ingrid Bolso Berdal (Atalanta), Peter Mullan (Sitacles), Rebecca Ferguson (Ergenia), Isaac Andrews (Arius); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Beau Flynn/Barry Levine/Brett Ratner; Paramount; 2014)

"Watchable, fancifully staged and its fast pace makes it easy to handle, but the acting is wooden, the storytelling clunky and the incessant slaughter is less than compelling."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Just another Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour"/"X-Men: The Last Stand"/"Tower Heist") directed film I didn't like. The blockbuster sword-and-sandals epic, about the ancient mythical Greek demigod, supposedly the son of Zeus, named after the god Hera, is watchable, fancifully staged and its fast pace makes it easy to handle. But the acting is wooden, the storytelling clunky and the incessant slaughter is less than compelling. It's loosely based on Radical Comics' Hercules by the late Steve Moore, who disapproved of this adaptation. Writers Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos keep it simple as a mere popcorn escapist film. The viewer needs no knowledge of antiquity to understand this film.

In 358 B.C., in ancient Greece, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is viewed as a tormented soul, who must complete his 12 super-human labors before free of the jealous Hera's death threat and has one more to do before he's home free (we see the legend battle the Nemean lion and slay the Lernaean hydra). Hercules is also grief-stricken over the murder of his wife and three children, but because of the rumor that he killed them the strongman is booted from Athens. The brooding Hercules finds five acolytes who believe in him and they bond together as a loyal ragtag band of mercenary warriors, fighting for gold and for one last battle to get enough loot to retire in style. The team includes his spin-master storyteller nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), a spear-chucking seer fond of wrongly predicting his own death (Ian McShane), the childhood friend who is a wisecracking dagger man (Rufus Sewell), the half-feral mute fierce warrior (Aksel Hennie) and a blonde Amazon with a bow and arrow (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal). The group agree to go to Thrace and fight against the marauder Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann) and his supposed centaurs. They are burning innocent villages when recruited by the lovely Princess Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), who represents her ambitious dad, Lord Cotys (John Hurt). Dad wants his farmer subjects trained to be a great army by Hercules. He wants them to fight with the legend against Rhesus' army. The widow Ergenia is protective of her young wide-eyed son Arius (Isaac Andrews), whom she expects to be the future king of Thrace and is distant from the venal King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes), of Athens. Eurystheus's secret conniving partner is her power hungry dad.

There are several twists in the story after the Hercules victory over Rhesus, but the battle scenes are mostly forgettable as the pic seems best when it shoots for dumb sight gags to entertain the masses with its unpretentious but shallow storytelling. All the disposable revisionist mythological film did for me was make me not care about the legend of Hercules. And, in the end, all I can say about this misfire is--“Fucking centaurs,” please give me no more Hercules films this year.

It's in 3-D but I went for the 2-D version, with no regrets.

REVIEWED ON 7/25/2014       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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